Spituk Gompa

Buddhist Monastery in Leh

Founded in the late 14th century as See-Thub (Exemplary) Monastery, impressive Spituk Gompa surveys the Sengye Tsangpo (Indus) Valley, with surreal views of jets landing at Leh airport just below (it's a Buddhist plane-spotter's heaven!). It's worth climbing the exterior stairway to the three-tiered latho (spirit shrine) and gonkhang (protector chapel), which holds the monastery's guardian deities (women not allowed).

Inside the main monastery complex, the most eye-catching structure is the Skudung Lhakhang, with vaguely Chinese-looking up-turned corners to its gilt roof. The colourful old dukhang (Tibetan prayer hall) contains a distinctively yellow-hatted statue of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the founder of Gelukpa Buddhism. In the same room is a Tsepame statue that is said to have originated from Tsongkhapa’s nosebleed.

The main upper Jokhang has an ornate golden-crowned statue of Jowo Sakyamuni that was said to have been brought from Lhasa after the Chinese invasion.

Overlooking the car park is a tiny canteen serving tea and Ladakhi paba (pea-and-barley meal; ₹40) with tangtur curry.

The monastery is around 5km from central Leh. The gompa has a festival in January, on the 26th to 28th of the 11th Ladakhi lunar month.